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Intel launches fastest Pentium yet

The leading chipmaker announces its fastest Pentium processor yet, running at a blazing 233 MHz.

Intel (INTC) today announced its fastest Pentium processor yet.

As previously reported Friday by CNET's NEWS.COM, the leading chipmaker today introduced a 233-MHz version of its MMX Pentium processor. Currently, the speed of the Pentium tops out at 200 MHz.

The new chip is the second from Intel to run at this speed, following the 233-MHz version of the recently announced Pentium II processor now on the market.

But these high speeds also require a reality check. The faster processors get, the less such speed increments matter. Going from a 200-MHz base to 233 MHz is a much smaller improvement than, for instance, the relatively large jump from early 60-MHz Pentiums to 120-MHz chips.

More important, all Pentium processors are tied to a 60- or 66-MHz system "bus" speed. The system bus is a data path by which the processor communicates with the rest of the PC.

This means that no matter how fast the chip runs inside, it has to slow down to communicate with the rest of the PC. In other words, the faster the internal chip speed, the more it has to throttle back to talk to other PC components.

"If you have two PCs and one is running at 166 MHz and the other at 200 MHz, you really can't notice any difference in speed [on typical business applications]" said Michael Slater, publisher of the Microprocessor Report.

Similarly, where the Internet is concerned, download speeds are dependent on the bandwidth of the online connection being used.

Major vendors, including companies such as Hewlett-Packard, are expected to announce systems next week based on the chip.

The new chip is priced at $594 in quantities of 1,000, said Intel.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.